The Rapidian

Duba & Company works to supply Grand Rapids with rare breed heritage meats

Jeff Duba, proprietor of Duba & Company, perpetuates family legacy by purveying top quality artisanal meats to West Michigan.
Jeff Duba (right) with wife Erin and daughter.

Jeff Duba (right) with wife Erin and daughter. /Eric Tank

How to get Duba & Co meats

To place an order with Duba & Company visit their website at

/Eric Tank

/Eric Tank

Grand Rapids' burgeoning culinary scene is paving the way for new and experimental restaurants and food vendors to pop up all around town. Riding on that momentum is Duba & Company, purveyor of heritage meats.

Heritage meats are those that are differentiated from conventional livestock breeds. In 1977 the Livestock Conservancy formed with the intention of preserving livestock breeds that where endangered due to the homogenization of the agriculture industry that began in the early 20th century.

Ensuring the survival of endangered livestock species requires creating a demand for the animal, so the argument goes. Creating a demand creates the incentive to breed and raise the animal. And so the more consumers eat the animal, the better chances that the species will endure. This is the paradox of the situation.

The importance of variety goes beyond merely having a culinary option.

"Variety is important because certain breeds or types of vegetables will be resistant to certain diseases that would otherwise wipe out an entire species," says Jeff Duba, proprietor. "As these breeds go extinct you're losing a genetic pool that could be very useful. For instance, there could be scientific applications in medicine that certain breeds of chicken or whatever might be able to provide for human welfare and wellbeing."

Heritage livestock are raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics that are prevalent among conventional meats. The exact opposite of factory farming, heritage breeds are raised in pastures that allow more room for roaming and grass grazing; they are not grain fed. These animals have in fact been bred generations over in the United States and further back to Europe to especially thrive in particular environments. 

 According to Duba the flavor profile of heritage meat is incomparable to conventional meat.

"There's a number of factors that influence flavor. A lot of it boils down to it being a pasture raised animal versus a grain fed animal because grain feeding will result in a product that is easily palatable; it doesn't have flavor, in other words. What gives it a lot of flavor is what it's eating on pasture," says Duba. "You'll get differences in flavor from farm to farm because no one location is exactly alike. And breed is also a factor. Also whether a breed is dry aged or not once it's slaughtered."

As far as Duba is aware, he is one of only two purveyors of heritage meats in the United States. "In terms of what we're doing is we're going out to those types of ranches and farms and we become sort of your Martha's Vineyard for heritage meats rather than the consumer buying it directly from a farm," says Duba.

Currently Duba sources all his meat from Michigan farms such as LEA-White Farms, Dundonald Highlands and Crane Dance Farm. Duba and Company is strictly an online business right now with a warehouse located in East Grand Rapids. He hopes to open a butcher shop in the future.

Duba has been in collaboration recently with the Artisan Beef Institute in California. The institute is "developing a language for beef tasting notes, which can only come into play really when you have this good beef," says Duba.

Last week Duba along with his wife and daughter were at the Cherry Hill Market in the East Hills Neighborhood sampling three different ground beef varieties served up as patties on a bun.

"Because of the rise of pasture raised animals you can now detect flavors- fuller flavors in the meats," says Duba.

Duba comes from a family of restaurateurs. Duba's Restaurant on the Beltline was an area staple for over 50 years before selling in 2005.

In an effort to perpetuate the family legacy Duba, approached by his father, began considering the best route to take in order to achieve this vision.

Initially the idea was to sell steak cuts supplied by Denver Beef, a longtime supplier of meats to the restaurant. However, in late 2010 due to circumstances beyond their control, the farm had to close, thus leaving Duba without a supplier.

It wasn't until the spring of 2011 while doing a research project on heirloom vegetables for Brewery Vivant that Duba discovered heritage meats. His enthusiasm for the product signaled the direction in which Duba & Company would turn.  Now Grand Rapidians can access beef varieties such as Scottish Highland, Dexter and Red Poll cattle.

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